As an atheist, one thing that I tend to hear from the religious side of the equation is that atheists don’t believe in anything. And that is frustrating because atheists believe in plenty of things, just nothing supernatural. But one statement I’ve been hearing that pisses me off even more actually comes from atheists: "Atheists lack a belief in gods."
This in reality should never be uttered by an atheist. And I do mean never. Every time I hear it, I just want to cringe. Hearing this proffered countless ways by atheists in many different venues, repeated practically verbatim, I’ve got to wonder if the person who originally came up with that description lacked a lot of creativity with regard to the English language.
I mean there are so many ways to say that atheists don’t buy any of the supernatural ideas being proffered by all the various religions in the world, and that’s the phrase that keeps getting passed around like a case of VD at a Roman orgy? Come on!
Now the fingernails-on-chalkboard effect that phrase has had on me has only been growing more potent as I’ve been reinvigorating an old hobby of mine from high school: writing fiction. To anyone who sees the phrase "atheists lack a belief in god" who also has experience writing fiction, do you see the problem?
Those who take on the moniker "agnostic" (like yours truly) are often referred to by atheists as "weak atheists". To me, any atheist who says "atheists lack a belief in gods" is a weak atheist because you’re using weak language. And I hear those who refer to themselves as "strong atheists" using this weak language.
As such I propose this phrase be banned from discussions on atheism, post haste. It needs to go. Atheists need to stop using it. It is a weak statement that makes the person uttering it have the appearance of backing into a corner and cowering like a frightened mouse. Is that really the impression you want to give? More powerful and active language must be adopted:
As an Atheist I have no reason to believe the claims the religious offer, and I will not believe any of them until sufficient evidence has been provided and adequately supported against all claims to the contrary.
Powerful language that is straightforward and in the active tense and not passive like saying in a rather pissy tone, "Atheists lack a belief". Sure a lot of atheists do say something similar to what I’ve just offered, but they say the "lack" statement even more.
When discussing atheism it should not be discussed as lacking anything because it doesn’t lack anything. Instead atheists just do not believe in anything supernatural and live their lives without the spiritual slavery of the here and now and the tyranny of the here after. A more powerful connation of "lack" is "does not", a form of the transitive word to be.
To say you are lacking something means that you want or desire whatever you are lacking. The dictionary defines lack as a "deficiency or absence of something needed, desirable, or customary". For example I currently lack children. The hungry lack food. The horny lack a sexual partner or some alternative. I think you get the idea. So by saying you lack a belief in a deity or god, it seems to imply you want to believe in a deity or god. If that be the case, then go on saying you lack a belief and I’ll know how to classify you.
As to the rest of us, if you don’t want to believe in a god, deity, or theology, then stop using the word "lack" in describing your beliefs. Start using the more active tone instead of the passive, pissy tone.
Atheism is purely not believing in any supernatural or higher power. The atheist is someone who does not believe in any supernatural or higher power. Plain and simple. And that is how atheists should describe atheism, other atheists, and themselves.